The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has had serious and well-documented consequences on the physical health of many Americans.

What is perhaps less known is the consequences of the pandemic on the mental health of the country. This is a point worth considering, especially as October 4-10 marks National Mental Illness Awareness Week.

An April 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that nearly half of all American adults (45%) say the pandemic has affected their mental health, while 19% say it has had an “impact. major”. (The impact of the coronavirus on life in America. Kaiser Family Foundation. April 2020).

According to a report by Express Scripts (America’s State of Mind: US Trends in Drug Use for Depression, Anxiety, and Insomnia). Companies like Ginger and TalkSpace that provide virtual mental health care have seen a massive increase in demand for services during the pandemic, with increases from 50% to 65% in February and March 2020 (Open Minds / Strategy and Innovation Institute April 23, 2020).

Even though mental health issues are on the rise as a result of the pandemic, a national shortage of psychiatrists remains pervasive.

In March 2017, the National Council of Behavioral Health released a report indicating that 77% of US counties are experiencing a severe shortage of psychiatrists. Tens of millions of Americans live in federally designated health worker shortage areas where mental health services are lacking. In Texas alone, 185 counties do not have a general psychiatrist, according to a study by Merritt Hawkins. Unfortunately, the problem is likely to worsen, as more than 60% of psychiatrists are 55 years of age or older.

Improving access to mental health services was a national health challenge that had to be addressed before the pandemic. The problem is even more serious now. Mental Illness Awareness Week is a good time for U.S. policymakers, medical professionals and the public to demand action, which could begin with a coordinated effort to train more psychiatrists.